Discover the Art of 8 Limbs [Muay Thai Explained]

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The art of 8 limbs being used in competition.

Muay Thai sometimes referred to as the art of 8 limbs is one of the most effective combat sports on the planet.

This is because a Muay Thai fighter (or Nak Muay) uses more of their body as a weapon than other martial arts.

Muay Thai practitioners make full use of 8 different parts of the body to weaken opponents. In this article, we’ll show you them all, plus some killer techniques used for each.

Thai Boxing (Chok)

The punch techniques in Muay Thai include the five basic moves used in Western boxing. This includes the jab, cross, hook (mat tong), uppercut (mat aat), and an overhead punch.

Another type of punch used is a long-range hook. Savate uses a very similar punch, as their fighters also need to close the gap from kicking range.

A distinct difference between Thai boxing and Western/British boxing is how they use their hands. In particular, how they hold their guard.

Because a Thai boxer must counter not only punches but also kicks, knees, and elbows, the guard position is farther away from the body. Elbows extend out further, and this is all done to help defend against a wide range of attacks.

Elbow strikes (Sok)

Elbows were a major aspect of Muay Boran – the style of fighting Muay Thai developed from.

In Muay Thai, elbows are delivered in various ways: horizontally, downward, upward, spinning, and driving.

The horizontal elbow whips the point of the elbow across the target, usually to the side of the head, like a hook punch. This technique also uses similar mechanics and can be picked up easily.

The downward elbow technique first raises the elbow point backward and then drops it downward.

This technique can be hard to pull off unless you’re very tall or perhaps fighting a little person.

A variation on the downward elbow technique is possible while jumping though. You jump up and let gravity carry your elbow down to your opponent’s head with your hand held high.

Meanwhile, upward elbows are typically delivered like an uppercut punch. Like the horizontal elbow, these can be quite satisfying to pull off when hitting pads.

Spinning elbows are like you expect. A spin with a horizontal elbow strike.

The driving elbows are more like a step in boxing jab.

Please note that it can be difficult to learn how to use elbows effectively in a fight scenario. They can be so dangerous to an opponent’s brain that it’s not really recommended to practice them in live sparring.

Knees

Like elbows, knees were a big part of the effectiveness of Muay Boran and remain a key element of Muay Thai today.

Here’s a quick video demonstrating Muay Boran knee techniques, complete with traditional Kard Chuek hand wraps.

Knee attacks are dangerous and are often debilitating. Whether in the clinch or thrusting forward like a strike, they hurt.

The knee strikes are typically thrown in three basic ways: straight, round, and jumping.

You’re most likely to see the straight knee or the round knee used in contests.

Sometimes the jumping knee (or flying knee) will be used. But this is mostly used to impress the audience. Or to put Ben Askren to sleep.

Having said that – there are some great jumping knee KOs in Muay Thai fights and even a ton in the UFC worth checking out.

The straight knee is usually directed to the opponent’s stomach. It requires a sort of pelvic thrust as the striking knee is raised, and the upper body leans backwards. It’s great for close-quarter fighting.

The round knee is used in the Thai clinch when you’re wrapped up and works like a hook, usually attacking the ribs and kidneys.

These techniques are where body conditioning plays such an important role in the fighters’ training camp. The core needs to be tightened and conditioned to withstand knee shots.

Keep in mind, though, no matter how much training a martial artist does, the human body is not meant to take knees to the solar plexus. And it is very common for knees to the body to incapacitate opponents.

Muay Thai Kicks (Te)

Kicks are one of the most well-known weapons of a Muay Thai practitioners’ arsenal.

There’s quite an emphasis on kicks and a Muay Thai fighter’s daily training regimen is focused on kicking. This not only improves mobility and fluidity but also conditions the shins.

Check out our complete guide on Muay Thai shin conditioning.

Kicking techniques include leg kicks, roundhouse kicks, front kicks, and spinning kicks.

A simple leg kick can have you limping for days.

The roundhouse kick is aimed at all levels of the body.

The low kicks are used to chop down the opponent’s legs. They’re a bit more ruthless and efficient than other martial arts, like Savate, Kyukushinkai Karate, and even kickboxing.

In fact, the low kick was devastating in a legendary fight between Kickboxer Rick Roufus and Muay Thai fighter Changpuek Kiatsongrit.

Although he had some success in the fight, Rufus was eventually TKO’ed by the constant onslaught of low kicks delivered by Changpuek.

The front kick is usually used to push an opponent or halt their momentum. It can also be used as a foot-thrust or teep to hit the body and sap the energy of your opponent.

The spin kick requires you to pivot on your lead foot and turn your body to build momentum as you kick with your back foot. This requires speed, agility, and briefly turning your back to your opponent. It is a kick adapted from Taekwondo.

Similar to the high round kick, the spinning kick is often saved for the bout’s final blow.

There is also no sidekick in the traditional Muay Thai toolbox. However, practitioners of karate-based Japanese kickboxing use the sidekick technique effectively. Find out more in our head-to-head of Muay Thai vs Kickboxing.

Bonus Weapon: The Supernatural

It may sound a bit silly from a Western perspective, but Thailand and Southeast Asia, in general, is a region steeped in spiritual traditions.

Before a fight, fighters partake in a traditional ceremony that includes a pre-fight ritual dance known as Wai Khru. In theory, this is used to cast a spell on opponents and bewitch them with magic.

These sorts of pre-fight rituals can be found across the region, for instance, in both Muay Thai and Lethwei.

The Art of 8 Limbs Summed Up

With these 8 points of contact at their disposal, any Muay Thai practitioner can hold their own.

Whether an amateur or professional fighter, training Muay Thai can turn you into a killer. This makes it a very dangerous form of fighting and one which we highly recommend training in.

While it’s a full-contact sport, the training doesn’t have to be. We recommend sparring, however, it’s not always necessary to gain some benefits from Muay Thai.

It can be a great way to get into martial arts and learn defence techniques that will surely work against an untrained attacker.

Plus, the workouts are fantastic.

Not only are they great for weight loss, but they’ll also take your confidence to another level.

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.

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